১লা জুন ২০২৩ খ্রিস্টাব্দ | ১৮ই জ্যৈষ্ঠ ১৪৩০ বঙ্গাব্দ
প্রকাশিত: ১২:৫৫ পূর্বাহ্ণ, মার্চ ২৮, ২০২৩
Today is 26 March, the great Independence Day. The Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had declared the independence of Bangladesh on this day in 1971.
He urged the Bangali nation in that declaration to join the independence struggle and expel the invading and occupying Pakistani forces by shedding the last drop of blood. When Bangabandhu was writing the declaration of independence while remaining seated at his Dhanmondi road-32 residence, the Pakistani commandos had encircled the house for arresting him. He was then a fearless man bereft of mundane apprehensions. He had prepared himself to sacrifice his own life for the sake of the nation. He was fully ready to embrace death. After seeing off all his colleagues, he was waiting alone at road-32. When some colleagues asked him to go into hiding, he replied, “I have given you independence, please go and preserve that”.
Bangabandhu knew that the Pakistani hyenas would even look for his corpse by digging the soil of Bangladesh if they did not find him. After preparing the declaration of independence, he faced the challenge of passing it to the leaders and workers waiting outside as well as his countrymen. While dwelling on how to publicise this declaration, he remembered his colleague of Chattogram – the local Awami League leader and Member of Parliament Zahur Ahmad Chowdhury; he could be given the onerous responsibility of publicising this declaration. Bangabandhu then handed over the declaration to one of his closest neighbours after writing this great mantra of Bangalis’ freedom on a slip of paper. Bangabandhu gave Zahur Ahmad Chowdhury’s telephone number to him and requested him to send the message to that number. All Bangalis were then eagerly waiting to receive Bangabandhu’s directives. That neighbour –then passed on Bangabandhu’s message by making a telephone call to Zahur Ahmad Chowdhury’s residence. A dramatic and terribly fateful night commenced after that. Following a lull for some time, the beastly forces of Pakistan exploded with a massive roar to begin the worst ever, most horrendous and brutal mission of genocide; it was as if the whole sky fell on the Bangali nation!
Background of the Declaration of Independence
It was the 26th of March 1971, the final hours of our long struggle for independence; on that day, the greatest Bangali of a thousand years, the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared the independence of Bangladesh. He had spoken about independence at the public meeting on racecourse ground on 7 March. But he did not directly say on that day: ‘Bangladesh is an independent country from today’. He said this in the early hours of 26 March after the midnight of 25 March.
Bangabandhu’s historic declaration of independence was in English, which is now preserved in the family library of Zahur Ahmad Chowdhury. It was as follows:
“Pak Army suddenly attacked E.P.R. Base at Pilkhana, Rajarbag Police Line and killing citizens; street battles are going on in every street of Dacca. Chittagong. I appeal to the Nations of the World for help. Our freedom-fighters are gallantly fighting with the enemies to free the motherland. I appeal and order you all in the name of Almighty Allah to fight to the last drop of blood to liberate the country. Ask E.P.R., Bengal Regiment and Ansar to stand by you and to fight. No compromise; Victory is ours. Drive out the last enemy from the holy soil of motherland. Convey this message to all Awami League leaders, workers and other patriots and lover of freedom. May Allah bless you.”
Sk. Mujibur Rahman
26 March 1971
That neighbour made the telephone call (no. 80785) at Zahur Ahmad Chowdhury’s residence to pass on the message. As Zahur Ahmad Chowdhury was outside home, his wife Dr. Nurunnahar Zahur wrote it down.
When Nurunnahar Zahur informed Zahur Ahmad Chowdhury about the message after writing it down, he prepared its cyclostyle copies very swiftly and made arrangement for its distribution all over the town through the Awami League and Chhatra League workers. Rickshaws, vans and taxies were used for this publicity. As directed by her husband, Nurunnahar Zahur sent the message to Salimpur Wireless Station in Sitakunda thana for overseas transmission of the message via wireless. The then Assistant Engineer of Salimpur International Maritime Wireless Station in Sitakunda thana AKSMA Hakim took appropriate decision and action with the help of his colleagues to transmit Bangabandhu’s declaration of independence abroad.
The Awami League leaders of Chattogram decided to use radio for the purpose of publicising Bangabandhu’s declaration of independence. Alongside printing and distributing cyclostyle copies of Bangabandhu’s declaration of independence, they pressed into service the transmission centre of Chattogram Radio Station located at Chandgaon area of the town. Later, it became the publicity organ of the liberation war by adopting the name ‘Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra’ (Radio Station of Independent Bangla).
The general secretary of Chattogram district Awami League M A Hannan read out Bangabandhu’s declaration of independence in his own voice from the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra. On being inspired and requested by the Chattogram Awami League leaders, Major Ziaur Rahman of Eighth East Bengal Regiment also read out the declaration of independence on behalf of Bangabandhu on 27 March, which was re-broadcast on 29 March.
A message on Bangabandhu’s declaration of independence also reached Salimpur Wireless (VHF) station of Chattogram from Mogbazar VHF Wireless Station at 4 or 5 am dawn. This message then reached almost all the police stations and EPR posts through the wireless network of EPR, and its cyclostyle copies were distributed. News about Bangabandhu’s declaration of independence, secession of the eastern wing of Pakistan and the civil war were publicised through foreign newspapers and radios.
If the background of the declaration of independence is analysed, then finding linkages with events like the establishment of Chhatra League in 1948, founding of the Awami League in 1949, victory of the Jukta-Front in 1954 etc. is not difficult. The linkage with the non-cooperation movement was direct.
The whole of Bangladesh exploded in anger when President Yahya Khan of Pakistan indefinitely postponed the session of Pakistan National Assembly scheduled to be held from 9 am in the morning of 3 March 1971 through an announcement made at 1.05 am noon on 1 March 1971. There was suspended animation, although the Awami League did not have any pre-set programs on the day; but the heat spread across the country. This unexpected announcement by Yahya added fuel to the fire. The whole nation descended on the streets in protest.
The government servants came out from the secretariat and other public offices; the banks, insurance companies and other business establishments also became empty. A cricket match was in progress at the stadium. Immediately after hearing the radio announcement of Yahya, the spectators poured out of the stadium in groups. There was no need to ask anybody. People came out spontaneously from their homes; they joined processions with whatever they could find nearby including sticks. Those processions became longer and longer, and ultimately stretched across the whole of Bangladesh territory.
Bangladesh was not yet free then; but that thunderous eruption transformed East Pakistan into Bangladesh in a matter of single day. In fact, the liberation war of the Bangalis had started on that very day. Slogans like “Address of yours and mine, Padma-Meghna-Jamuna”, “The last word of all – independence of Bangladesh”, “Valiant Bangali take up arms – make Bangladesh free”, “Your leader, my leader – Sheikh Mujib, Sheikh Mujib” reverberated all around through the spontaneous voices of hundreds of thousands of people. The whole of Bangladesh became filled with processions. All strata of men and women including children, youths, the middle-aged and the aged left their homes to participate in processions on the roads imbued with the spirit of that fiery and unprecedented mass awakening.
After the overwhelming victory of the Awami League in the election of 1970, Yahya Khan was maintaining his silence. In this backdrop, he summoned the parliamentary session in Dhaka on 13 February when the Awami League became vocal about it. But Zulfikar Ali Bhutto issued a statement on 15 February asserting that his Pakistan People’s Party would not join the session in Dhaka as there was no possibility of reaching any understanding on the question of 6-points. But PPP would not object if a pledge was made on amending the 6-points. In this backdrop, the Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti said on 17 February, “The decision taken by Mr. Bhutto to foil the session is aimed at separating the two parts of Pakistan”. Bangabandhu responded on 24 February; he said, “An open conspiracy is being hatched to foil the electoral triumph of the people. The masses should remain alert and awake, and take preparations against this conspiracy”. Meanwhile, the Council Muslim League and the Pro-Quayum Muslim League also declined to come to Dhaka by speaking in the same tone as the PPP. On 27 February, 27 MNAs from West Pakistan announced that they would attend the Dhaka session.
They then started to arrive in Dhaka for joining the March 3 session. But the political atmosphere became hot for the first time after election when Yahya suspended the assembly session through a statement issued at 1.05 pm noon on March 1. The scenario changed immediately after Yahya suspended the assembly session without holding any discussion with the majority party. The whole of Bangladesh became inflamed.
The greatest and best achievement of the non-cooperation movement was the pronouncement made by the thunderous voice of Bangabandhu – ‘Freedom’. The thousand year-old cherished dream of the Bangalis was set free through the roar of that single word. Independence was no more a ‘dream’ then, rather it became a reality; not banned alphabets, but an independent country. The rights of the people for freedom, and the sovereignty of the Bangali nation over their country were acknowledged. The invading Pakistani forces then swooped on the heartland of Bangladesh on the dark night of 25 March for recapturing the state. The question of independence appeared before the Bangali nation after the call made by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman during his address at Racecourse Maidan of Dhaka on 7 March 1971. The non-cooperation movement was continuing even before that at his call.
Pakistan died and Bangladesh was born through the non-cooperation movement; the non-violent non-cooperation movement assumed a fuller shape later by getting transformed into an armed war of liberation. In fact, the non-cooperation movement was a preface to the liberation war; this period can be termed as the period for mental and organizational preparation for the liberation war. The Bangalis became a ‘military race’ by getting burnt in the fire of this movement. Military training centres were set up all over the country through the initiatives of the Awami League cum its Action Council, and the Chhatra League cum its Students’ Action Council. The dearth of weapons was met through wooden dummy rifles while imparting training to the civilian population. How effective that training was in the battlefield was not the issue; what was more important was the reflection of the craving for waging a war in order to materialise the aspiration for independence. These trainings did not take place in secret; rather the parades and war-cries of students-youths-workers-peasants around the clock at innumerable training centres built in towns-villages, open-fields, post-harvest marshlands became familiar scenes in Bangla. We do not know whether this kind of all-pervasive enthusiasm for military training as seen among the Bangalis could be observed in the life of any other nation.
This huge zeal for military training can be termed as a preparation for people’s war. At that time, military preparation among general masses for the liberation war was undertaken as a part of the movement led by the Awami League and Chhatra League in accordance with the directive of Bangabandhu. Former military officers and jawans as well as Ansar Force members took up the responsibility of imparting military training to the general public after ending their retired life. They joined the war when it started.
Alongside this people-centric preparation, the Bangali soldiers working in the military and pseudo-military forces of Pakistan were also contacted centrally and locally, so that they could join the liberation war of their motherland when needed by revolting against the Pakistani forces.
Pakistani Barbarism and Genocide
The seeds of destruction were in vogue in the very creation of Pakistan. There was slackness in the knot that was tied based on religion alone despite divergences in geography, language and culture. Tearing up of that knot in 1971 was therefore inevitable. There is no exact count of how many precious lives were lost prematurely, how many women lost their honour or became widow, how many parents lost their offspring, or how many children lost their parents. The entire subcontinent was flooded with blood during the creation of Pakistan in 1947. Three million Bangalis had to sacrifice their lives for establishing Bangladesh by breaking free from the clutches of Pakistan in 1971. The waters of Padma, Meghna, Jamuna, Buriganga, Shitalakshya, Teesta, Brahmaputra, Surma, Kushiara, Arial Khan, Kirtankhola, Modhumati, Gomati, Karnaphuli, Shankha, Matamuhuri and Bankkhali became red with blood. The honour of two lakh mothers and sisters was lost. Millions of people had to take shelter in the territory of friendly neighbouring country India after becoming refugees.
The Pakistani president Yahya Khan accorded his brutal, barbaric troops the licence to kill and destroy, and incited them to attack the innocent and unarmed civilians of Bangladesh who were either asleep or taking preparation for that purpose. The Bangali soldiers and police working in military and militia forces were also not spared from their brutality. They smashed to ground the citadel of the movement at Dhaka University, the Rajarbag Police Lines and the EPR Headquarters in Pilkhana at the very outset by attacking with tanks, canons, rockets, recoilless rifles and machineguns. For executing Yahya’s blueprint of committing genocide styled ‘Operation Searchlight’, the Pakistani soldiers continued their limitless cruelty, brutal killings of people, bestial tortures, reckless plundering and destructions throughout the nine months. They turned the Golden Bangladesh into a burial ground by burning slums, hostels, towns, ports and villages. The devastations and havocs wrought by the Pakistani troops have no parallel in the history of mankind in terms of their enormity and hideousness.
The Bangalis finally went for waging an all-out war against the invading forces. The parliamentarians from the Awami League went to India for constituting a government-in-exile. Syed Nazrul Islam and Tajuddin Ahmed were appointed the Acting President and Prime Minister respectively of the government. They formulated the proclamation of independence that ultimately took the shape of the constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. An independent and sovereign Bangladesh finally emerged through the surrender of the Pakistani forces at Suhrawardy Udyan of Dhaka on 16 December after a nine-month long war of liberation.
There was no country called Bangladesh in the past. The Bangalis were also not a nation at any stage. The scope for the emergence of a nation-state comprising the Bangali population – who lived within the geographic boundary of East Pakistan by sharing the same language, culture and heritage – was created when East Bengal was incorporated in the new state of Pakistan during the partition of India in 1947. Bangabandhu was the first person to comprehend that possibility.
Before coming to Dhaka from Kolkata, Bangabandhu sat at a secret meeting with his trusted colleagues at Sirajuddaulah Hall of Islamia College and said: This may not be the real independence; we shall have to start a new struggle on the soil of Dhaka for achieving real independence. He engaged himself in that struggle from the very first day he arrived in Dhaka. At first the establishment of Chhatra League (1948); then the strike of class four employees of Dhaka University, language movement (first phase), Tangail by-election, founding of Awami Muslim League (1949), second phase of language movement, Jukta-front election (1954), presentation of 6-points (1966), Agartala Case (1968), election of 1970, and lastly the non-cooperation movement.
Bangali nationalism erupted with a roar when a countrywide movement was built up based on the 6-points. The Bangali nation woke with the spirit of self-determination after observing the discriminations and step-motherly attitude of Pakistani rulers; when they were not satisfied even with the demand for autonomy, then the imperative for independence became visible. The Bangali nation assumed the shape of a single national entity through their demand for independence in March 1971. Bangabandhu was that Pied-Piper of Hamelin who brought them to the streets. Bangabandhu was also the first to pronounce the word ‘Bangladesh’ during a memorial meeting held at Bangla Academy in 1969. Therefore, Bangabandhu was that mythical king who was the proponent and source of Bangali Nationalism, Independence and the Independent State of Bangladesh.
Photo credit : Rafiqur Rahman